Landslide defeat gives Gilroy food for thought
Pat Gilroy was hit by 'friendly fire' in Swords yesterday as his experimental Dublin team were carved open by some familiar names in the annual Dubs Stars tussle.
In essence, Dublin have begun the season as they ended it with a heavy defeat but the personnel on duty, the freezing conditions and the occasion will ensure that Gilroy won't spend too long, if at all, dwelling on the result.
The Dubs Stars team, sponsored by Dublin Bus and the 'Evening Herald' were backboned by county champions Ballyboden St Enda's who provided six and St Jude's who contributed another four, making up two thirds of the starting team.
With Bernard Brogan also starting, it gave the club selection a strong hand against a rookie Dublin side, many of whom are unlikely to see the light of day again when the action gets more serious.
In fact, Gilroy will have taken far more out of the performance of the Dubs Stars with corner-back Chris Guckian capping a fine display with a cracking goal near the end that he had started himself deep in his own half.
And Blaine Kelly also showed the promise that earned prominence in the early days of Gilroy's reign 12 months ago.
Michael McAuley, one of the driving forces behind Ballyboden's football success in October, worked well with David Henry at midfield even if his propensity for spilling possession is still obvious. But he looks a player that can be worked with.
Conal Keaney also looked sharp and hungry at centre-forward as the Dubs Stars' revolving door policy made the most of a small squad.
Keaney's effort will have gone a long way to reassuring Gilroy that his future lies with the football squad.
The subject of much speculation about a potential move to Anthony Daly's hurling squad, Keaney is to train with the footballers this week as they resume activity with the hurling management expected to hear from him next week about what his intentions are.
Gilroy seems satisfied he'll have him for the season ahead. "As far as I am concerned, he is coming out to play football. I haven't heard anything to the contrary."
In general observation Gilroy found the exercise useful. "It was a good work-out, a good way to start the year. They did well out there, particularly some of the Dubs Stars. A lot of them will be in our squad," he predicted.
With such a high quota of 'greenhorns' in his own selection -- only Paul Flynn, Mossie Quinn, Paul Casey and Ger Brennan have seen regular action in recent years -- the result was perhaps inevitable.
"We've got a chance to throw in a lot of players who have never played before (at this level)," observed Gilroy who had been laying the foundations for significant change in the months ahead, essentially preparing the Dublin football public for the worst.
But finalising a squad for the season ahead is something that is much further down the line as many potential members will be college-tied in the weeks ahead.
"We've a lot of players tied up with colleges, something like 18, so it's going to be a very experimental team. We'll be struggling with numbers," he said.
"We'll pick a panel for each game. We won't be picking a panel until the colleges are out of the O'Byrne Cup."
Inevitably, there will be ongoing speculation about what the future holds for Jason Sherlock and Bryan Cullen among others in the weeks ahead.
Cullen may be eligible for DCU again in the O'Byrne Cup as he has returned there to study.
And Ciaran Whelan, who was present at the game yesterday in a spectator role far removed from the Dublin squad, won't be approached any time soon to reverse his decision to retire, according to Gilroy.
"It's only two months since he made his decision so we'll leave Ciaran alone. We'll talk to him again in April or May, we'll see how he is then," said Gilroy.
The conditions were poor but, to the credit of the Fingallians club, they had the pitch as playable as it could have been in the sub-zero temperatures.
The experimental playing rules were also on show for the first time and the Dubs Stars were first to benefit from the change to the square ball infringement as Andrew Kerin got in to challenge Mick Savage and punch Kevin McManamon's delivery to the net on 19 minutes, giving the Stars a 1-5 to 0-1 lead.
They were rampant in the opening half and, as Bernard Brogan finished with a goal and a point (from a free), Dublin found themselves 11 points adrift (2-7 to 0-2), sparking quite an animated interval speech from Mickey Whelan.
The effect was slow to resonate but eventually it did as Dublin closed to eight points going into the fourth quarter.
But Guckian's goal made sure the Dubs Stars' comfortable cushion remained in place and only Mossie Quinn's late penalty, two metres closer now thanks to the experimental rules, provided a better gloss on the result.
Gilroy sees more goals accruing from the liberty now afforded to forwards in the square and liked what he saw yesterday. "The square ball one is a good one. It was a pointless rule (before this) and I could see some benefits in having it. I think it will add to the chances of more goals," he predicted.
"The mark I'm not so sure about. I think the intent will be to stop opponents getting them more than anything."
Significantly, no mark was taken in the game although Dublin's towering midfielder, Eamonn Fennell of O'Toole's, did catch a kick out cleanly but was allowed to play on.
Scorers -- Dubs Stars: A Kerin, B Brogan (1f) 1-1 each; C Guckian 1-0; C Keaney 0-3 (2f); B Kelly, J Cooper, M McAuley all 0-2 each; S Murray, K McMenamon 0-1 each.
Dublin: T Quinn 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2f); P Flynn, D Daly, D Rock, E O'Gara, C Murphy, J Brogan, D Kelly all 0-1 each.
dubs Stars -- D Walsh (Ballyboden St Enda's); P McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams), I Clarke (Ballyboden St Enda's), C Guckian (St Jude's); S Murray (St Brigid's), D Kiernan (Ballyboden St Enda's), S Breheny (St Jude's); M McAuley (Ballyboden St Enda's), D Henry (Raheny); B Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett's Eoghan Ruadh), C Keaney (Ballyboden St Enda's), B Kelly (St Mary's), A Kerin (Ballyboden St Enda's), B McManamon, K McManamon (both St Jude's). Subs: R Downey (Ballyboughal), J Cooper (Na Fianna), D Carrigan (St Mary's), K Naughton (Ballyboden St Enda's).
Dublin -- M Savage; P Conlon (both St Vincent's), M Fitzsimons (Cuala), C McCormack (St Mary's); P Casey (Lucan Sarsfields), G Brennan (St Vincent's), J McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams); E Fennell ( O'Toole's), P Flynn (Fingallians); B Courtney (Na Fianna), S McGrath (Thomas Davis) D Daly (Fingal Ravens); D Rock (Ballymun Kickhams), E O'Gara (Templeogue Synge St), T Quinn (St Vincent's). Subs: J Brogan (St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh), C Murphy (St Jude's), G Seavers (Ballyboughal), N Devereux (Ballinteer), H Gill (St Vincent's), D Kelly (Trinity Gaels), T Diamond (St Vincent's), A Hubbard (Ballymun Kickhams), B Sexton (St Sylvester's).
Ref -- Brian O'Shea (St Mark's)